Gov. Mike Beebe (D) met with representatives of the state’s teaching ranks on Tuesday (Sept. 24) and from all indications, progress may have been made on how to resolve a crisis involving skyrocketing public school employee insurance rates.
Teachers and other public school employees are facing higher premiums, which have been caused by an estimated $53 million shortfall in the Public School Health Insurance program.
The public school health insurance plan, which provides coverage for roughly 47,000 teachers and school personnel in Arkansas, has been troubled for months, but participants could be facing a nearly 50% increase in premium prices by Jan. 1 if a resolution is not found.
On Monday, Beebe delayed the teacher insurance sign-up date for public school employees from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1 in an effort to garner more time for a legislative solution that could lead to a special session.
David Goins with our content partner, KARK Ch. 4 News, reports that Beebe and the leader of a teacher’s association seem to be moving in a similar direction.
“One of things that had originally been talked about was some immediate benefit reductions,” Beebe said. “And I think there’s less talk of that right now.”
“It was all about shared responsibility,” said Michelle Linch, leader of the Arkansas State Teachers Association. “It’s going to take a little bit from everyone, so we think that can happen.”
After emerging from a closed-door meeting with teacher groups, Beebe says all sides, including taxpayers and school districts, will have to step up.
“If they’re going to shoulder some of the burden and the state’s going to shoulder some of this burden, then, at least conceptually, most of the superintendents say we’re willing to do so to,” Beebe says. “Then the devil is going to be how and how much?”
Beebe has said he’s willing to convene a special session to address the issue if a consensus can be reached prior to a call.